There are days when you know deep in your being, that something has changed; something monumental, something irreversible. Like the coming of Autumn, everything around you speaks of an ending and of a beginning – the chill in the air; the colours of year’s farewell; the growing quietness of nature’s weariness. Mostly, it’s something intangible; something on the edge of the senses; a primaeval instinct. Today, I feel that change.
Yesterday we lost something precious. Not a figurehead or an institution or a symbol, but a fellow adventurer; a precious soul; a faithful servant.
She walked the walk of faith – a life of duty and compassion and wisdom – and in the midst of self-important, uncaring, grabbing world leadership, she was an example of quiet dignity and solid integrity and rare intelligence.
Let’s not deify her. She had only one God. Like those who share her faith, she tried to follow Him to the best of her ability. Her imperfections, like all our imperfections, added to her relatability and made her like us – a flawed but loved human being.
Queen Elizabeth II, was a constant in a chaotic world and a reassuring presence, year after year, and though I’ll miss her, and though she marks the end of an age and none can replace her, I think she’s earned a rest.
It would be blatantly obvious, to anyone who knows me, that I’ve never had a Latin lesson in my life. With lots of subjects I, like many others, Google what I need to know at any given point, which can lead to contextual difficulties and the danger of outright misinformation (it seems that anyone with a vague knowledge of something, or lack thereof, can post whatever drivel that comes into their head). On top of that, it seems that Latin is a language with many variables, so when I looked up a simple phrase I was given a long list of options. Basically, the experts suggested I just pick the one I like. So I did.
Despite what Instagram (et al) portrays, sometimes life sucks. In the space of a month I was made redundant and was very ill with Covid (having avoided it for 20 months). Poor me, right? All that left me unable to function; unable to do the things I love doing (in spite of now having lots of time); unable to face everyday life. I found myself struggling with concepts like purpose, meaning, and identity (I’m an artist so it doesn’t take much to get me there anyway). It took another month to finally sit in front of my laptop (Hi) and at least try to produce something. On my Google Keep the first thing I noticed was “id est quod est”, which my past self had planted there for times like this – “it is what it is”.
I don’t believe in fate but sometimes the situation we find ourselves in is the reality we have to deal with. Unravelling the skein of a new mess can take a bit of time. It should take a bit of time. The process of change is painful and confusing. We have to reset.
The next realisation to hit me, as I mooch around my cluttered workspace (I really need to have a sort), was this – I have everything I need, and I know everything I need to know, to move forward; even if it’s one tiny step. I just need to do it.
Today, I just need to have the proverbial mustard seed. One tiny step, one tiny progression, and I won’t be where I was; I’ll be moving into my new reality.
They say that once you start getting tattoos it can be a little addictive. I’m not sure I fall into that category (yet) but I have been thinking about adding to my collection. OK, I’m definitely adding to my collection.
You may remember that I created a design for my right forearm that was made up of 31 symbols that say something about who I am; I called it Totem. Well now I’ve designed a little something for my left forearm. It’s a graphic representation of some of the core things I believe in; I call it Creed.
It probably would have been easier (and less painful) to have a QR code tattooed somewhere.
Well done if you got past the title of today’s blog! It’s not as bad as it sounds. We went on an Art Day yesterday, to recharge ours souls and to get challenged by stuff we don’t necessarily like. First we went up to HOME and then across Town to Manchester Art Gallery and saw some wonderful, amazing, inspiring pieces. We also saw things that made us tired and made us wonder if someone, somewhere, was just messing with us.
We always start at the back of Manchester Art Gallery, because that’s where most of the new exhibitions are, and then cross the bridge to the old section’s middle level, where the longer term, more classical pieces live. There’s a point, two steps through the door, when I just stop, stunned, every time. Right in front of me, against a beautiful blue wall, is William Holman Hunt’s painting – The Shadow of Death. It’s like being slapped in the face (in a good way). It doesn’t matter how many times I see it, it’s like seeing it for the first time. I tend to stand for quite a while, just soaking up it’s beauty, and then I go a bit closer and scan it, section by section; I always find a new detail.
Yesterday I did the same. It takes me a while to notice that there are any other paintings and then I start to wander round. That’s no disrespect for the other artworks – there’s some very powerful images, it’s just for me, The Shadow of Death overwhelms everything else. After I’d looked at all the other stuff and took a few photos, I returned to Holman Hunts painting. On the bench in front was a young man doing the same thing I do. He looked like a younger version of me (a much younger version). I took a picture of him and them went over to ask if I could use it for my blog. He said, “That’s cool, mate.”
So, my friend’s son reached the significant age of 18 recently which brings up all sorts of questions like, how did that happen? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I held him in my arms? Surely only last week that I played “catch the Autumn leaf” with him in Tatton Park? As part of the celebrations, his Mum asked me, along with other aging humans, to contribute some wisdom that may help to lead him through the perilous journey of life. Here is my wisdom, the Wisdom of Steve, which I’m sure he will (and probably should) ignore…
The older you get the more you know you know very little.
Everyone is blagging it.
People only have as much power over you as you let them.
Synchronised Swimming is very skilful but not a sport.
Humour is in the eye of the beholder.
The greatest joke is the Two Monkeys in a Bath Joke but it loses something when written down.
God is bigger than you think. You are smaller than you think.
Nobody really knows “What Would Jesus Do” (WWJD) and that’s the point.
You are unique. You are loved.
Cats are parasites.
Putting fruit flavours in beer or cider is an abomination.
There is no such thing as pear cider – it’s perry.
Every sport is pointless unless you enjoy it.
Comic Sans is for children only. As is Harry Potter.
The point of life is to become more human and to make other people’s journey easier.
Celebrities are, generally, oxygen thieves.
The only thing that outlasts you is the memory of how you treated people.
God’s love for you is outrageous, extravagant and costly.
Music, food and hope are universal.
Wes Anderson is a genius.
Art is elitist. Creativity is for all.
McDonald’s is not food.
Be kind. Be gentle. Be good.
You don’t need heroes.
Find a pen you love.
Create stuff even if no-one gets it.
The greatest skill to learn is how to be adaptable.
Pastel colours are not colours. Beige is for people with no imagination.
If your politics make life harder for people, especially marginalised people, you need to rethink your politics.
Your closest friends should be better than you (although I realise this can cause a paradox).
Cheese shouldn’t smell like the animal it came from.
Heed the small voices.
Fashions will become ridiculous and, in most cases, fashionable again.
Pigeons are rats with wings.
The Hudsucker Proxy is an amazing film. There are many amazing films.
Knowledge for knowledge sake is great for pub quizzes but not much else.
Marry your best friend.
There are always stars behind the clouds.
Be wary of platitudes.
Gambling will not make you rich. You will be paying for another casino.
When drinking alcohol, set a limit. Only go over that limit occasionally and in trusted company.
The countryside is wet and smelly but if you must venture into it do it with your heart wide open.
If love is selfish, it’s not love.
You have to leave your roots to appreciate them. This does not apply to hair dye.
Life is an adventure. There are times of dark as well as light but light always wins in the end.
Better to be loving than right.
Graphic novels are not comics. Animated films are not cartoons.
Popular opinion is seldom correct.
Lessons are learnt through experience not by taking advice.
Learn empathy. Practice grace.
Don’t use those words (you know the ones I mean) as punctuation. It makes you look stupid.
Give a damn.
Lead sometimes. Follow sometimes. Learn to know when.
Art is all about the little white card next to the painting.
If you give into violence, you’ve already lost.
Dark humour for dark times.
Do nothing every now and then – absolutely nothing.
Work will always fill the void if you don’t fill it with something of value.
Jesus is not meek & mild. He does not want you as a sunbeam.
Blind faith is lazy. And dangerous.
Caviar is just fish eggs. Champagne is just fizzy wine.
A Skoda is a VW with a different badge. Don’t pay more for badges.
A good friend is someone you don’t see for a long time and you pick up the conversation where you left off.
Don’t use a pencil as a drumstick, it breaks the graphite. Put the top back on the felt pen.
I can’t yet. Not, I can’t.
Star Wars is a film not a religion. This applies to all art and media.
Any food that only tastes good dipped in butter is superfluous. Just eat the butter.
Don’t eat the weasel. Biblical truth.
A badger is funnier than a fox. A lemming is funnier than a polecat.
There are 54 kinds of mustelids. Embrace them but not literally.
Don’t put your finger in the custard.
Poverty is evil. It makes people small. People aren’t meant to be small.
Always have a hobby. It doesn’t matter what – just something you love.
Don’t wear underwear more than once before washing it. It’s gross.
Tagging is the artless work of morons. Street art is the voice of the powerless.
Tattoos are permanent and unchanging. Removing them is very painful. Only get tattoos your 70 year old self will be proud of.
There is no such thing as a free app.
Adverts are there to make you feel bad enough that you’ll buy what they’re selling.
The News doesn’t reflect the real state of the world because kindness doesn’t sell newspapers.
The more stuff you have, the more you have to maintain it.
And finally. Don’t be creepy. Don’t be a nob head.
Very excited. I finally got to use my Wacom drawing tablet, which means I can draw straight into the laptop without having to scan or use the mouse to draw (not easy, believe me). It also means I can develop my Bodkin characters, which are in their fourth incarnation (at least), and move away from geometric shapes into a more natural drawing style. I still use a modular style, where each element is an object in its own right, so that once a character is complete I can reposition it and not have to draw the whole thing again.
The first character is called Quinn (one of about 300 in the sketchbook, so we’ll see how many I do before I move on to the next project), I hope you like them.
Ever had one of those days where you nip out for a quick errand which turns into a whole day? Yep, one of those days. I took the car in for its MOT and settled in a local café for the 90 minutes it would take the garage to do their thing. I had breakfast, got my notebook out and started to doodle. Then I got the call. The car had failed and it needed some repairs; hundreds of pounds of repairs and another three hours wait! Can you hear the sigh I just did? I’m still feeling the pain of it.
So, I relocated to the only place I could legitimately loiter for the next couple of hours; the library. I found a workspace right at the back, near a big window and pulled out the notebook again.
Last Autumn I had a thought for a project (yes, another one) called Punk Prayers. The idea was to write familiar types of prayer as honestly and as raw as I could. That meant cutting out the flowery language and not bothering about what it would look like to other people. I wanted it to be me and God. And now, forced to stop and wait, I took the opportunity to gather together some of the notes; write some more pieces; and refine what I had (or more to the point, un-refine it).
The three hours turned into four and a half, which gave me enough time to finish the project (I know, right? Me, finishing a project. Whatever next?). It took another day to type it all up and create a new page for the website but it’s all done. Finished. I feel a little giddy.
Punk prayers are not for everyone but if you feel like having a look you can find them here
They slept on, unaware, as the dawn stalked Jerusalem. In the city and the towns and the villages, they navigated dreams and nightmares, stretching out as in the freedom of flight and curling back as if returning to the womb.
Amber sunlight gently warmed the death-cold stone, illuminating diamond dew, and elbowing shadows out of the way. Today was not for shadows. The night creatures retreated to their lairs and the birds heralded a new day in a cacophony of glory.
Tentatively the morning rays entered the tomb, motes of dust sparkling with new possibilities, and unneeded graveclothes finding colour once more. The body was gone and hope awoke, rubbing sleep from its eyes, and forgetting whip and thorn and nail.
And outside, as nervous footsteps approached, Death continued to stalk the world in his Sunday best, but his heart was no longer in it.
What good about this day? A day of betrayal and fear and absence A day of pain and grief and the lowest expressions of humanity Where life is cheap and death is so common as to not draw attention
What’s good about this day? When even the Maker is rejected and goodness despised When games of power are played out at the expense of the powerless And richly clad rulers snicker behind carefully manicured hands And think themselves, oh so clever
What’s good about this day? If all that has been taught about love and peace and joy comes to nothing And the example, the manifestation, of these good things hangs on a cross
What’s good about this day? When hope dies and fear reigns and, yet again, the oppressor disposes of another nuisance And puts the common people in their place
What’s good about this day? The last day of the ultimate revolution The last day of a new possibility The last day of the Prince of Peace
As I’ve got older I’ve started to notice things more, particularly rhythms of life. The seasons are the obvious ones when you live in the North of England, although you can get several seasons in one afternoon as it hails, sunshines, rains, one after another. So, I find myself waiting for the Blackbird to sing, the spiders to spin their webs, the geese to fly in skeins.
There are other rhythms too. Creativity is a big one for me and, although they seem to follow the seasons, they can also be seen in any given week or month. There are times when I can’t seem to get into the head space, times when I flit from one project to another, and those glorious times when it pours out and feels like it’ll never end.
I also have days, usually in the spring, when I rediscover lost projects, as if pushing aside the winter debris to discover green shoots pushing out of the soil. Sometimes these projects have remained untouched for months or years.
This week I found some of my photos that I’d adapted and suddenly I was making more, trying out different filters and effects. For three evenings I made hundreds of images with no purpose apart from the joy of making something. It was like an obsession.
Then I stopped.
I may make more next week or next month or in five years time, I don’t know, but when it calls to me again I’ll answer.
It used to bother me when things were incomplete, which is a problem when I have dozens of unfinished projects, but now I just go with the rhythm and the process has become much more important to me than the product.
And now you’ll have to excuse me because I’ve just noticed some illustrations that I’d like to develop a little more.